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Hirsch: Let’s Throw Out Employee Evaluations

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August 22, 2013 by   Leave a Comment

Jeff Hirsch

Editor’s Note: The following is a column penned by Jeff Hirsch, Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) chairman and owner of New Hampshire-based Campers Inn, that appears in the latest issue of RV Executive Today. Hirsch examines the effectiveness of annual employee evaluations and offers some alternatives.

What to do? I’ve been planning for the past year to develop a new employee evaluation system, but after reading an article by management expert and author Aubrey Daniels, I’m in a quandary.  Under his philosophy, I should throw out the traditional performance appraisal altogether. In his book “OOPS!”  he lists it as one of the top 13 time- and money-wasting management practices. He makes a persuasive argument, actually, and now I’m wondering whether I should bother having HR develop an evaluation plan for my company.

Daniels’ point, in a nutshell, is that both employees and companies perform better when managers function as coaches rather than graders and assessors. The typical once-a-year, checklist-type of employee evaluation just hurts morale and is counterproductive. Employees and managers alike dread them.

No one enjoys being graded, especially on a one-size- fits-all evaluation form that rarely gives a true picture of an employee, says Daniels. “We can’t expect employees to be excited about a system that pits one against another and appraises them in the abstract. There is no piece of paper that can adequately determine a person’s value or worth to the organization.” And most evaluation systems dictate that only a certain percentage of the work force can receive “excellent” ratings. But what if your entire staff does an outstanding job?

Companies spend too much time trying to fix something that will never work, says Daniels. The answer is not to tweak the evaluation criteria or to conduct evaluations more often. The system will never be effective, so tear it up and throw it out.

Daniels advocates that managers should act as coaches and mentors, literally teaching their staff how to perform their jobs better. Good managers know how to reward improvements and good performance – how to mold employee behavior to get the best from every individual. Ask any supervisor which of their employees deserve a promotion and they’ll tell you without hesitation, because they see all of the daily triumphs and failures.

In fact, Daniels wants us to change our managers’ titles to “coach.” I have to agree with him. I’ve always felt that that’s exactly what a good manager’s responsibility is – to help his or her employees become more successful and feel like they’re an important part of the team. So Daniels has given me more to think about before I sign up for another new employee evaluation system.

The value of a good partner

Good partnerships are hard to come by, and they should be honored and cultivated when you’re lucky enough to find them. RVDA is blessed with many good partnerships that contribute to the longterm good of our industry. I must tell you that my perspective has been shaped over time; while chairing various committees through the years, I’ve seen firsthand the fiscal importance that these corporate partnerships have to the association. These companies truly believe that their financial contributions help build a better future for all of us in the industry.

So here’s the deal: These generous, longtime contributors need something to show for it. In tight times, when businesses have to watch where every dollar goes, our partners need to see a return. When you’re evaluating what products and services to buy for your dealership, I hope you’ll give these companies a second look. They’ve already invested in you. And when you’re at the convention this year, thanking them for their support can go a long way, but your business is the ultimate expression of gratitude.

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